“When great trees fall,

rocks on distant hills shudder,

lions hunker down

in tall grasses,

and even elephants

lumber after safety.” (Maya Angelou, When Great Trees Fall)

A thick layer of smoke and dust in the air is alarming from the point of view of global warming and extremely injurious to health and ecosystem in general. While landing in Lahore, it is a strange experience to actually observe an unhealthy layer of smoke mingled with dust from the top. Breathing this very air brings another terrible feeling. Lahore as well as its vicinity is covered by an annoyingly disturbing layer of smoke combined with dust. The situation is not very different in other cities as well. It is incumbent upon all of us as citizens of Pakistan to foresee the damage it can cause.

In fact, we are already experiencing scorching heat which definitely signals air pollution. In 2015, around 1,200 people died in one week in Karachi due to heat wave (International Business Times). Instead of wasting time on blaming the construction work going on at a large scale, factories generating smoke, over-population, electricity issues, we essentially need to focus on the solution to the searing temperature, dust and smoke. According to my experience there is more traffic in New York but the air seems fresh and soothing because there are plenty of trees all around. New York, in spite of being one of the biggest cities in the world, is amazingly green. “These days Pakistan's forest cover is somewhere below 2 percent. In the United States, that number is roughly 33 percent and in India 23 percent (The Washington Post, May 2016).

Deforestation has disturbed the entire ecosystem. If keenly observed, less number of sparrows can be seen even in the villages. The worms our ecosystem needs are going extinct. According to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) report (2015), an estimated 18 million acres (7.3 million hectares) of forest, which is roughly the size of the country of Panama, are lost each year. An increase in human foot-print is causing a huge disaster to the echo system; therefore we irrevocably need an honest motivation to implement an idea which is beneficial for the entire population. According to a WWF report, (2010), Pakistan has the highest deforestation rate in Asia while, FAO, 2010 report says that Pakistan has the highest deforestation rate in the world. We have not been able to increase the forest cover from 2.1 percent to 6 percent by 2015; even though it was apprehended in WWF report, 2010.

Chris Maser says:

“What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.” (Forest Primeval: The Natural History of an Ancient Forest)

What a pity to be thoroughly aware of the detriments of something and still do the same thing collectively! On top of that we don’t compensate for the damage we cause to the environment. We have sadly seen the miserable plight of the people in “Thar” with our own naked eyes; still we are willing to aggravate the situation in all parts of country. Sadly, in Thar, 311 children died in 11 months. (Dawn, Dec 15, 2014)

The solution lies in planting trees on a massive scale. We irrevocably need trees not only in the forests in KP but also in all parts of the country. Trees bring rain and no one can deny the fact that water is life. We need water, we need fresh air and we need a pollution free atmosphere. It is as essential as breathing. In our situation, it must be everyone’s responsibility to plant trees for the sake of sustainable social development and economic growth.

Unfortunately, we don’t resolve our internal issues and then complain against others for intruding and interfering with our matters. It assuredly won’t even be plausible for any foreign aid to grow trees overnight and balance the entire ecosystem for us once it gets implicitly damaged. The halfhearted campaigns we have run so far cannot ensure a proper solution to the issue and waiting solely for the government to effectively resolve this issue is like ‘waiting for Godot’. Policy clashes between federal and provincial governments, war against terrorism, ruthlessly active timber Mafia, lack of enthusiasm on part of the workers have so far been a few among many hurdles on the way to waging a war against deforestation.

 Setting a highly inspiring example, Bhutan has become a carbon negative country; while we are not even carbon neutral.

In order to solve the problem, certain number of trees should be allocated to every private or government sector organization and it must be made sure that the organizations actually grow those trees and take care of them. Universities and colleges should double the number of trees if possible. Students should be given projects. It would be great if students in their four year degree programs spend some of their "precious social media time" on growing certain number of trees as a group work. It will help tackle the detrimental issue of global warming. The retired people and house managers should also consume some of their time on growing plants.

We already purchase mineral water and God forbid, time may come when we have to buy fresh air as well. It would be a troublesome situation to carry fresh air tanks along. Therefore we must not wait for somebody to work for us, a particular community to grow trees; instead we should voluntarily consider it a moral obligation or individual responsibility to plant plants. Initiatives such as “One billion trees project” and “Green Pakistan program” are highly commendable but they are inadequate and limited to certain areas. Therefore, the college and school principals, vice chancellors, health officers, director generals and managers of different public and private sector organizations all over Pakistan should influence people in this regard because it unquestionably is every individual’s responsibility to protect the echo system.  Government and policy makers must make it compulsory for every organization to grow certain number of trees or at least the organizations, educational institutes and hospitals should do it voluntarily. The free space should be utilized. Streets, roads, institutions must have a certain number of trees and the concerned people must be held accountable.